The Mother of the Wesleys

THE Lutheran Observer prints the following interesting extract from a letter on family government, written by the mother of Rev. John Wesley, at his urgent solicitation. It contains food for thought:

DEAR SON:- According to your request, I have collected the principal rules I observed in educating my family. The children were always put into a regular method of living, in such things as they were capable of, from their birth.  When turned a year old, they were taught to fear the rod, and to cry softly, by which means they escaped much correction, which they otherwise might have had, and that most odious noise of the crying of children was rarely heard in the house. As soon as they grew pretty strong, they were confined to three meals a day.  They were suffered to eat and drink as much as they would, but not to call for any thing.  If they wanted aught, they used to whisper to the maid. As soon as they could handle a knife, and fork, they were set to our table.  They were never suffered to choose their meat. Eating and drinking between meals was never allowed, unless in cases of sickness, which seldom happened; nor were they suffered to go into the kitchen to ask any thing of the servants when they were at meat. If it was known they did so, they were certainly beaten. At six, as soon as family prayer was over, they had their supper.  At seven, the maid washed them, and beginning at the youngest, she undressed and got them all to bed by eight, at which time she left them all in their several rooms awake, for there was no such thing allowed in our house as sitting by a child until it fell asleep. They were so constantly used to eat and drink what was given them, that when any of them were ill, there was no difficulty in making them take the most unpleasant medicine, for they durst not refuse it.

In order to form the minds of children, the first thing to be done is to conquer their will. To inform the understanding is a work of time, and must with children proceed by slow degrees, but the subjecting of the will is a thing that must be done at once, and the sooner the better; for, by neglecting timely correction they will contract a stubbornness and obstinacy which are hardly ever conquered. In the esteem of the world they pass for kind and indulgent, whom I call cruel parents, who permit their children to get habits which they know must be afterwards broken. When the will of a child is subdued, and it is brought to revere and stand in awe of its parents, then a great many childish follies and inadvertencies may be passed by.  But no willful transgression ought ever to be forgiven children without chastisement, less or more.  I insist upon conquering the will of children betimes, because this is the only strong and rational foundation of a religious education, without which both precept and example will be ineffectual.  But when this is done, the child is capable of being governed by the reason and piety of its parents, till its own understanding comes to maturity, and the principles of religion have taken root in the mind.  I cannot yet dismiss this subject.  As self-will is the root of all sin and misery, so whatever cherishes this in children, insures their wretchedness and irreligion. Whatever checks and mortifies it, promotes their future happiness and piety. This is still more evident, if we further consider that religion is nothing else than doing the will of God, and not our own; that the one grand impediment to our temporal and eternal happiness being this self-will, no indulgence of it can be trivial, no denial unprofitable.  Heaven or hell depends on this alone, so that the parent who studies to subdue it in his child, works together with God in the renewing and saving of a soul!  The parent who indulges it, does the Devil's work, makes religion impracticable, salvation unattainable, and does all that in him lies to damn his child, soul and body, for ever. Our children were taught the Lord's prayer as soon as they could speak.  They were early taught to distinguish the Sabbath from other days. They were taught to be still at family prayers, and to ask a blessing immediately after meals, which they used to do by signs, before they could kneel or speak.  They were quickly made to understand that they should have nothing they cried for.

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